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2. Mai 2008, 4:10 Uhr, Geschrieben von Miriam Meckel

Out of print?


I am familiar with quite a variety of arguments the newspaper business imposes on itself to commit suicide fearing dead. Decline of circulation, decline of market shares, the movement of advertising revenues from print to online, the fading of a whole industry. These dark visions are discussed all over the world. But the most depressive part of the discussion seems to be eminent in the U.S. Talking to a former editor of one of the bigger East Coast newspapers, she tells me: „I don’t believe that newspapers will survive in the U.S. The Internet will take their place, not least because the quality of the papers is so poor.“

You have a point there. My favourite definition of quality time is to sit in a café in the morning with a café latte and a newspaper. If this is supposed to work I need more than the caffeine infusion, there has to be an intellectual infusion as well, providing me with facts, provoking thoughts and argumentation lines I can digest over the day. In a lot of smaller cities in the U.S. this is hard to find. Not only because the papers are really poor, you simply can’t even buy the alternatives. Try to find the „New Yorker“, „Harpers Magazine“, „The Atlantic“ or even „The New York Times“ in Southern U.S. You have to go to the airport, there you might be lucky sometimes.

Will newspaper lovers have to face harder times? It might be true for the U.S. The exciting and inspiring version of journalism can be found in the magazines as well as in some editions of the NYT. Not in the daily papers. But that’s not the fault of the internet, that’s due to economic pressures, greedy investors and a lack of carefulness in keeping up the profession of journalism under changing conditions (though the U.S. have some of the best university journalism schools available).

It’s not all the internet’s fault! A good paper like the NYT proofs each and every day that the print edition and the web presence can coincide fruitfully. So maybe it is time to double check why the print business adds quite a portion of defeatism to its own future fate. At the Milken Institute’s Global Conference there was – of course – a panel discussing the future of print media in the digital age. Brian Tierney, CEO of the Philadelphia Media Holding, pointed at something very true: „The problems of this industry are so overstated because journalists talk about these problems all of the time.“ Right he is. Journalism is a self-centered business. But way too many of its representatives act as messengers of doom. Embracing the opportunities of the Internet will be much more helpful than painting the picture of a disappearing industry.

One argument might be the crucial one in this debate: Have you figured out what would happen to the Internet if there were no newspapers anymore, no editorial staffs providing lots of content every day, no investigative journalists spending a lot of time and effort to discover the malfunctions in politics, business and society? The Internet would become a boring place of recycled information. „Google would go out of business if newspapers were not longer around“, said Brian Greenspun, the president and editor of the Las Vegas Sun on that above mentioned panel. I know he is right. It’s very often an idea derived from my morning newspaper reading that rumbles in my brain and is turned into a blog posting later on.

I love good journalism and the social network society of the internet age needs it like every other society before. „Of course as long as man lives someone will have to fill the herald’s place. Someone will have to do the bellringer’s work. Someone will have to tell the story of the day’s news and the year’s happenings.“ This is not a quote from a blog, it’s from a personal letter William Allen White wrote to Lyman Kellogg in 1931. Sometimes old letters can tell the truth about the young internet age.

© Miriam Meckel 2002 bis 2021